Out LGBTQ UFC fighter Raquel Pennington is finally a champion in MMA’s top promotion, defeating fellow out LGBTQ fighter Mayra Bueno Silva by unanimous decision in the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC 297 main card.
Judges scored the fight 49-46, 49-46 and 49-45 in favor of Pennington.
The final image of her repeatedly kicking the legs of Silva as she laid on her back, hands behind her head as if she were relaxing in a lounge chair, as the fifth round of their UFC Bantamweight title bout came to a close defined Pennington’s victory.
After spending much of the first half of the fight stuck against the cage in the clinch, Pennington used superb defensive handfighting to stave off multiple submission and takedown attempts from Silva.
A clearly fatigued Silva ate multiple hard shots from Pennington when they weren’t in the clinch and fought off an arm triangle attempt from the American before that final domineering frame that left the Brazilian on her back at the final horn.
The win places the UFC Bantamweight championship back in the hands of an out fighter after Amanda Nunes vacated the title following her retirement last year. It also marked a bit of redemption for Pennington, whose only other challenge for a UFC title came in 2018 against Nunes.
The five-plus year journey back to title contention included her marriage to fellow UFC fighter Tecia Pennington, the birth of her first child and a six-fight win streak that culminated in Saturday’s title win.
“It’s been a long five years getting back to this,” Pennington said as she celebrated the win with her wife and daughter inside the octagon. “Mayra is tough. I have climbed mountains to get back here.”
UFC president Dana White congratulated Pennington during the post-fight press conference. “I’m happy for her,” White said. “She’s been at this for a long time. She’s had a lot of ups and downs, stuck it out and she’s a world champion now.”
Pennington revealed during the presser that she woke up sick Saturday morning and consulted with coaches and her sports psychologist to gather herself ahead of the fight. “To be in this position, like, this is something that people dream of. This is what I’ve dreamed of, again, for the last five years,” Pennington said.
“Back in the day, I said I wanted to be one of the first women into the UFC and people laughed at me. Then, I was like, ‘I’m going to be a champion,’ and people laughed at me again,” she continued.
“They brought my little girl around and I saw how beautiful she looked. I was like, ‘Alright. I’m not quitting. I’m going out there and I’m doing this. It doesn’t matter how I feel.’”
Pennington called out former UFC Bantamweight champion Julianna Pena following the fight, potentially setting her up as the new champ’s first challenger. Pena is currently out of action due to injury, so Pennington’s first opponent as champion remains up in the air.
She also hinted that she may be looking at retirement from the octagon in the near future, stating that she would like to defend her title “a couple of times and then that’s a wrap for me.”